Here is a little more of the Mantorville/Quetzal County story. I havenʼt really been working on it lately (Sepharad instead), just letting ideas bake in the subconscious (which has genuinely been happening; I do have some new thoughts for this story). Regardless, Frank Long got injured (deliberately) in a football game (a scene I am afraid I need to revise/edit extensively now that I have been thinking more). Hereʼs the next few paragraphs as they stand right now.
Frank knew it. He told me.
— And this is all important somehow?
Directly important, Dr. Symonds.
It had better be, I thought. We seem to be taking routes more roundabout than I could have ever imagined to get to the crime and finally from there to some kind of treatment.
So shall I tell you about it?
—Go on. Go on. The whole purpose of these sessions is to get you talking, mister, no matter how distantly tangential to the topics we really need to explore. Or am I missing something, not understanding the connection, the importance of what you’re telling me so far?
To begin with, I need to explain a little psychological insight I achieved myself that long-ago fall.
Excellent, I thought. Psychological insights from patients are always so profoundly valuable.
As teachers, he continued, we think we know so much about our students. In reality, we know almost nothing at all. I had realized something of this in Jackson, but the lesson got even more startling in Quetzal County. Kids are full of surprises, secrets, angles and perspectives you would not have guessed until they choose to make it visible to you. Frank showed me vistas of humanity I would not have suspected at first. And Edie, too, in her own way…
He was drifting. That empty look hazed his eyes as he paused, noticeably, clearly thinking, remembering something. Then he smiled, not for me, to himself, shook his head slightly, and refocused, his thoughts and attention settling again on me.
I used to be a pretty friendly person, and kids liked me as a teacher. I had more issues with that here in Iowa, but I don’t think that was me so much as those Quetzal County kids. They all looked alike, you know. Have I told you that already?
No, you haven’t.
Well, they did look alike. Long heads, narrow faces, lank dark hair. Broad foreheads, narrow and receding chins, loose-lipped mouths, big teeth. Generally long noses with wide nostrils. The girls mostly looked pretty as a rule, but the boys often reminded me of rural-baiting humor, likes the once-infamous Jukes family, and their class performance frequently matched. People in the area used to make jokes about the riverfolk down in Pelham and that area being inbred, but everyone in the county seemed to both resemble and be related to pretty much everyone else. Those families were just more definitely the same.
The look I’m trying to describe seemed like something out of a Tennessee feud movie.
Everyone was related to everyone else, too. I learned fast that you have to be careful what you say in Quetzal County because if you say something negative about someone, chances are that whoever you say it to is that person’s third cousin once removed or something. It was kind of scary, in a way.
And they’re all very conscious of just who’s related to whom and exactly how. For instance, I had never quite figured out all that once- or twice-removed stuff, even though I taught The Great Gatsby my whole career (you know, the narrator Nick is Daisy’s second cousin once removed — I didn’t know but I believed him: he had been the English teacher). But any kid I wanted to ask could have explained it to me…
Creepy kids. That’s all. Looking like yahoos with doltish attitudes. And they didn’t much like me even early on…
Anyway, Frank. I haven’t explained, but he and I shared a bond — probably because we were both new in the area and definitely because we both felt like outsiders. Edie was part of all of that, too, but I don’t want to talk about her now. Both of them were in my Advanced Placement English class last period, and so it became somewhat natural for them to linger after school for at least a few minutes to talk about things. Of course, Frank had football practice once he joined the team, and Edie, as I told you, was managing for volleyball. So none of these little chat sessions lasted very long. Not then.
It was talking after school, for instance, when Edie told me about counting the memorials in the Roll of Honor, and it was after school about two weeks before the “accident,” when Edie wasn’t there, that Frank first revealed what he thought was going on.
Not much develops so far, but I wanted to get in the description of the Quetzal County rubes (I can pick on them: theyrʼre my creation, and I know more about them than you do—nyah!). I intend for it to become not important exactly but significant maybe. Letʼs see if posting this gives me the oomph to do better on writing more of this story. —On the other hand, tomorrowʼs post lets you in on some issues about forwarding my writing career currently.